IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/upf/upfgen/1221.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The credit ratings game

Author

Abstract

The collapse of so many AAA-rated structured finance products in 2007-2008 has brought renewed attention to the causes of ratings failures and the conflicts of interest in the Credit Ratings Industry. We provide a model of competition among Credit Ratings Agencies (CRAs) in which there are three possible sources of conflicts: 1) the CRA conflict of interest of understating credit risk to attract more business; 2) the ability of issuers to purchase only the most favorable ratings; and 3) the trusting nature of some investor clienteles who may take ratings at face value. We show that when combined, these give rise to three fundamental equilibrium distortions. First, competition among CRAs can reduce market efficiency, as competition facilitates ratings shopping by issuers. Second, CRAs are more prone to inflate ratings in boom times, when there are more trusting investors, and when the risks of failure which could damage CRA reputation are lower. Third, the industry practice of tranching of structured products distorts market efficiency as its role is to deceive trusting investors. We argue that regulatory intervention requiring: i) upfront payments for rating services (before CRAs propose a rating to the issuer), ii) mandatory disclosure of any rating produced by CRAs, and iii) oversight of ratings methodology can substantially mitigate ratings inflation and promote efficiency.

Suggested Citation

  • Patrick Bolton & Xavier Freixas & Joel Shapiro, 2010. "The credit ratings game," Economics Working Papers 1221, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  • Handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:1221
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: https://econ-papers.upf.edu/papers/1221.pdf
    File Function: Whole Paper
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Berger, Allen N & Davies, Sally M & Flannery, Mark J, 2000. "Comparing Market and Supervisory Assessments of Bank Performance: Who Knows What When?," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 32(3), pages 641-667, August.
    2. Hand, John R M & Holthausen, Robert W & Leftwich, Richard W, 1992. " The Effect of Bond Rating Agency Announcements on Bond and Stock Prices," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 47(2), pages 733-752, June.
    3. Antoine Faure-Grimaud & Eloïc Peyrache & Lucía Quesada, 2009. "The ownership of ratings," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 40(2), pages 234-257.
    4. Roland Benabou & Guy Laroque, 1992. "Using Privileged Information to Manipulate Markets: Insiders, Gurus, and Credibility," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(3), pages 921-958.
    5. Navin Kartik, 2009. "Strategic Communication with Lying Costs," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 76(4), pages 1359-1395.
    6. Bo Becker & Todd Milbourn, 2008. "Reputation and competition: evidence from the credit rating industry," Harvard Business School Working Papers 09-051, Harvard Business School, revised Sep 2010.
    7. Roman Inderst & Marco Ottaviani, 2009. "Misselling through Agents," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(3), pages 883-908, June.
    8. Bolton, Patrick & Freixas, Xavier & Shapiro, Joel, 2007. "Conflicts of interest, information provision, and competition in the financial services industry," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 85(2), pages 297-330, August.
    9. Ashcraft, A. & Goldsmith-Pinkham, P. & Vickery, J., 2010. "MBS Ratings and the Mortgage Credit Boom," Discussion Paper 2010-89S, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
    10. Erik Durbin & Ganesh Iyer, 2009. "Corruptible Advice," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(2), pages 220-242, August.
    11. Arnoud W. A. Boot & Todd T. Milbourn & Anjolein Schmeits, 2006. "Credit Ratings as Coordination Mechanisms," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 19(1), pages 81-118.
    12. Dion Bongaerts & K. J. Martijn Cremers & William N. Goetzmann, 2012. "Tiebreaker: Certification and Multiple Credit Ratings," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 67(1), pages 113-152, February.
    13. repec:rje:randje:v:37:y:2006:1:p:155-175 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Hirshleifer, David & Teoh, Siew Hong, 2003. "Limited attention, information disclosure, and financial reporting," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(1-3), pages 337-386, December.
    15. Marco Ottaviani & Peter Norman Sørensen, 2006. "Reputational cheap talk," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 37(1), pages 155-175, March.
    16. Alessandro Lizzeri, 1999. "Information Revelation and Certification Intermediaries," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 30(2), pages 214-231, Summer.
    17. Strausz, Roland, 2005. "Honest certification and the threat of capture," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 23(1-2), pages 45-62, February.
    18. Carmen M. Reinhart, 2002. "An Introduction," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 16(2), pages 149-150, August.
    19. Emmanuel Farhi & Josh Lerner & Jean Tirole, 2013. "Fear of rejection? Tiered certification and transparency," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 44(4), pages 610-631, December.
    20. Marco Pagano & Paolo Volpin, 2012. "Securitization, Transparency, and Liquidity," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 25(8), pages 2417-2453.
    21. Souphala Chomsisengphet & Anthony Pennington-Cross, 2006. "The evolution of the subprime mortgage market," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Jan, pages 31-56.
    22. Mathis, Jérôme & McAndrews, James & Rochet, Jean-Charles, 2009. "Rating the raters: Are reputation concerns powerful enough to discipline rating agencies?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(5), pages 657-674, July.
    23. Jose A. Scheinkman & Wei Xiong, 2003. "Overconfidence and Speculative Bubbles," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 111(6), pages 1183-1219, December.
    24. Jean-Jacques Laffont & Jean Tirole, 1993. "A Theory of Incentives in Procurement and Regulation," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262121743.
    25. Morgan, John & Stocken, Phillip C, 2003. " An Analysis of Stock Recommendations," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 34(1), pages 183-203, Spring.
    26. Efraim Benmelech & Jennifer Dlugosz, 2010. "The Credit Rating Crisis," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2009, Volume 24, pages 161-207 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    27. Benmelech, Efraim & Dlugosz, Jennifer, 2009. "The alchemy of CDO credit ratings," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(5), pages 617-634, July.
    28. Stolper, Anno, 2009. "Regulation of credit rating agencies," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 33(7), pages 1266-1273, July.
    29. Mariano, Beatriz, 2008. "Do reputational concerns lead to reliable ratings?," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 24433, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    30. Ashcraft, Adam B. & Schuermann, Til, 2008. "Understanding the Securitization of Subprime Mortgage Credit," Foundations and Trends(R) in Finance, now publishers, vol. 2(3), pages 191-309, June.
    31. Kartik, Navin & Ottaviani, Marco & Squintani, Francesco, 2007. "Credulity, lies, and costly talk," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 134(1), pages 93-116, May.
    32. J. Michael Harrison & David M. Kreps, 1978. "Speculative Investor Behavior in a Stock Market with Heterogeneous Expectations," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 92(2), pages 323-336.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Keywords

    credit rating agencies; conficts of interest; ratings shopping.;

    JEL classification:

    • D43 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Oligopoly and Other Forms of Market Imperfection
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • G24 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Investment Banking; Venture Capital; Brokerage
    • L15 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Information and Product Quality

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:1221. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: http://www.econ.upf.edu/ .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.